Davis v. Norwalk Economic Opportunity Now Inc.
Even if certain aspects of the complaints are not identical, a False Claims Act suit may duplicate a Title VII suit, if both complaints arise from the same nucleus of facts. Susan Davis reported that co-workers allegedly misappropriated food stamps. Davis was discharged and filed two separate complaints. In the first, she alleged discrimination on the basis of race, in violation of Title VII. In the second, she alleged retaliatory harassment, intimidation and discharge, in violation of the False Claims Act. The District Court, Kravitz, J., dismissed the False Claims Act complaint on the basis it duplicated the Title VII complaint. Davis appealed. "As part of its general power to administer its docket, a district court may stay or dismiss a suit that is duplicative of another federal court suit," pursuant to the 2nd Circuit's 2000 decision, Curtis v. Citibank. The 2nd Circuit considered whether the complaints arose from the same nucleus of facts. Both complaints alleged that Davis reported co-worker misconduct to certain individuals. The type of adverse employment action that allegedly resulted was identical. The 2nd Circuit rejected Davis' claim that she could not have amended her Title VII complaint, to add an FCA claim, before the Oct. 7, 2011 deadline, because she was unaware until 2012 that management allegedly engaged in conduct prohibited by the False Claims Act. A retaliation cause of action accrues under the False Claims Act "when the retaliatory action occurs," as opposed to when the plaintiff discovers evidence concerning the motivation. Davis was discharged on Aug. 20, 2010, which was one year before the Oct. 7, 2011, deadline to amend Title VII claims and 18 months before she filed a False Claims suit. "In light of the ample time Davis had to assert her [False Claims Act] retaliation claim," wrote the 2nd Circuit, "we identify no error in the district court's determination that Davis's second filing was an attempt to avoid the consequences of delay in amending her initial complaint." The 2nd Circuit affirmed the judgment of the District Court. Christopher Parlato represented the plaintiff. Janine Hodgson and Michael Bayonne represented the defendant.